Mr. Freeze

By Pete Ehrmann on May 1, 2018
Mr. Freeze
The Stamford, Connecticut boxer ended his own professional career with a record of 1-12.

For 50 Krona ($5.78 American) you can buy the above-pictured autograph of ex-heavyweight boxer Richie Norden…

For 50 Krona ($5.78 American) you can buy the above-pictured autograph of ex-heavyweight boxer Richie Norden on the Nordic on-line marketplace Tradera. Norden signed it when he was in Sweden serving as a sparring partner for former heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson.

The Stamford, Connecticut boxer spent much of the 1960s in that capacity after ending his own professional career with a record of 1-12. Eleven of the losses were by KO—the reason for which, according to a news story widely circulated in 1955 after Norden was stopped early in his fifth straight fight since turning pro the year before, was that he suffered from a form of agoraphobia, though he didn’t use that word.

What he did say was, “I can’t get used to the crowd. In the gym with no crowd around I’m a great fighter. But when I get in the ring and see the crowd, I freeze up.”

Norden’s only victory was a first round TKO over Dennis McCann in Stamford on April 29, 1958. Apparently his crippling anxiety was ameliorated then by the fact there were only a hundred spectators in attendance.

His most notable conquerors were Tom McNeeley, who fought Patterson for the title in 1961 and knocked Norden out in McNeeley’s pro debut three years before; and Tony Alongi and Robert Cleroux, both of whom went on to crack the Top 10 in the early ‘60s. Norden lost a decision to Alongi, and in his final bout on September 26, 1960, Cleroux stopped him in two.

In late ’59 Norden boxed Floyd Patterson, then between championship reigns, in a Quebec exhibition match and was floored twice.

In 1963, Richie was chief sparring partner when Patterson prepared to try to win back the title from Sonny Liston. “Norden is the stand-in for Liston, all 230 pounds of him,” wrote Joe Hendrickson in the Pasadena (California) Independent. “Richie takes his pounding and gives some back. He’s the fellow who daily is supposed to remind Patterson of what he is up against July 22.”

The betting odds against Floyd retaking the belt actually ticked down a week before the fight when Norden was put to sleep for two minutes by a Patterson left hook.

“I turned about four colors of the rainbow until I learned he was all right,” said Nevada boxing commissioner Jim Deskin at ringside.

Liston kayoed Patterson in the first round. When Floyd went to Stockholm, Sweden for his final (unsuccessful) shot at the title against World Boxing Association champion Jimmy Ellis on September 14, 1968, Norden was a member of his training entourage at a resort on the Baltic Sea. And the boxer who used to freeze in front of an audience was now a crowd-pleaser, though not in the ring. International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee Michael Katz covered Patterson-Ellis for the International Herald Tribune, and in a 2006 piece about it wrote:

“I remember Richie Norden, Patterson’s longtime sparring partner, regaling guests with his imitations of punch-drunk fighters: ‘I seen it coming, I seen him start the left hook, I seen it coming, I don’t know why I didn’t duck.’”

Sounds like he was actually imitating himself after Floyd knocked him out that time in Vegas. When he came to, it was reported, “Norden said he saw the blow, thought it was going to be a straight left, then got caught by surprise when it hooked in and nailed him.”

I hope the punch-drunk part was strictly an act.

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  1. peter 08:58am, 05/02/2018

    Enjoyed the article. Now I’m jogging over to boxrec.com. to look at his record.

     

     

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